Dear TeamCAD website visitors,
We continue to cover interesting topics related to the BIM project process and digital twins. As I announced in my previous article, „Sensors and IoT in The Digital Twin Technology”, I am going to cover the topic “Storing And Availability Of Digital Twin Model Data – Are The Forge And The Cloud The Best Solutions?” in this article.
In the previous article „Sensors and IoT in The Digital Twin Technology”, I dealt with the topic of collecting data using sensors and IoT (Internet of Things). I have dealt with the topic of data generation during the BIM project process in many previous articles, for example, “Advanced BIM Data Management”, “BIM Workflow Automation”, “Data Management Of The Digital Twin Of The Building”, itd. I think that with the previously mentioned articles I have rounded off the topic of data collection so that in today’s article we can consider further data processing in the digital twin model.
Regardless of the way the data is generated, whether during the BIM project process or using sensors and IoT, the question arises how to store this data and make it available to all interested project participants at any time during all phases of the project, but also during life cycle of the constructed building. Therefore, in today’s article, I am very intensively going to discuss the BIM project process, digital twin technology, cloud and the Autodesk Forge platform, so I am going to define these terms at the very beginning of the article.
- BIM is a project process that relies on 3D data-rich model, which serves as a starting point for design within disciplines, as well as for multidisciplinary cooperation in all contracted phases of the project. Also, it can be said that BIM technology is the starting point of every digital twin model and that it is actually BIM (that is a 3D data-rich model) the basis for the transformation of the BIM model into a digital twin model.
- Digital twin technology is a technology that relies on a digital replica of physical data, processes, systems and digital reality simulation, which can be used for various purposes.
- Cloud is a technology that relies on external servers that are accessed via the Internet, which can contain various model formats, databases, software solutions for data processing and analysis, etc. The key advantage of cloud technology over the traditional approach of storing data on internal servers is that an enormous amount of data can be stored in the cloud and that the data in the cloud is available to all project participants in the way it is agreed and regulated by a protocol on data access between different participants in the project. In the construction industry, cloud solutions enable the continuity of application of the BIM technology and the digital twin technology from the conceptual solution and all subsequent phases of the project until construction, and then during the maintenance of the constructed building throughout its life cycle.
- Autodesk Forge is a web service application-based platform, which enables the integration of SaaS solutions (Fusion Team, BIM 360, etc.) into the user’s workflow and / or the installation of some of the components used in these Autodesk user solutions for web or tablet and smart phones.
Having defined the technologies that we are going to consider the most in today’s article, let’s return to the data. To make sure that every reader of the article is going to be completely clear about all the processes related to data, let’s look at the data in the digital twin model from the perspective of data science. If we start from the point of view that there is no essential difference between data in data science and data in digital twin technology, data-related processes can be roughly divided into:
- data collection;
- data storage and availability;
- data analysis;
- data visualization;
- decisions and actions based on the data analysis results.
Given the fact that a detailed consideration of all data-related processes would be very difficult to fit into one article, my intention in today’s article is to consider in detail the process of storage, availability and analysis of data in digital twin technology, while in future articles I am going to consider other processes related to data.
Data Storage And Availability
Storing data, at first glance, seems like a very simple process. Anyone familiar with the BIM project process will immediately think that storing data is assigning values and data to certain parameters in the BIM model.
However, the problem of data storage and availability becomes much more complex if we look at the BIM project process and the transformation of the BIM model into a digital twin model from different perspectives of the participants in the project process. As we know, when we talk about the BIM project process, we usually have the case that the participants in the project process are the designers of the discipline, the contractor, the investor and the legal entity engaged in the maintenance of the constructed building. Their view of the BIM project process, as well as the transformation of the BIM model into a digital twin model, and the availability of data and information in the digital twin model are very different. Therefore, I think it would be good to consider each of the mentioned views below:
- Data Storage And Availability From The Designer’s Perspective
- Data Storage And Availability From The Contractor’s Perspective
- Data Storage And Availability From The Investor’s Perspective
- Data Storage And Availability From The Facility Manager’s Perspective
- How does the cloud solution help with data storage and availability?
- How does the Autodesk Forge platform help with data storage and availability?
Data Storage And Availability From The Designer’s Perspective
In digital twin technology, similar to the BIM workflow, data can be viewed in two ways. When we consider data in the BIM model or in the digital twin model, it can be intended for different calculations within the project of a certain discipline, then for different simulations and predictions of how certain digital objects will behave in the real world, etc. But we must not lose sight of the fact that the BIM model or the digital twin model must also be intended for exchange with other disciplines in the project. So how do you best place them in the BIM model or in the digital twin model and make them available to all participants in the project process?
The current traditional approach of exchanging BIM models or digital twin models, which involves their exchange between different designers of disciplines in a certain time interval, defined by BEP (BIM Execution Plan), in a way enables an orderly exchange of information and data between the participants in the project. However, a major problem in such an approach to the project process is that changes made by a particular discipline in its BIM model or digital twin model are not available to all project participants at the time they are made. This further implies that it is possible for an architect, for example, to make certain changes in his BIM model, to even inform other participants in the project, but that these changes may be visible in the BIM model or digital twin model only in a few days, when all participants in the project process exchange their models and data in them. I have found myself countless times in a situation where my project team was informed that certain changes would occur in the BIM model or the digital twin model, which created big problems for us in terms of disrupting the design dynamics of the discipline I was part of and questions whether to continue designing until an updated BIM model or digital twin model arrives.
When we talk about the problem of storage and availability of data in BIM models of all participants in the BIM project process, cloud technology seems to be the best solution. Such an approach allows all discipline designers to see changes in discipline models at agreed intervals in a quite simple way. When we talk about cloud technology, it is possible to work in a live model, where all changes in the models of disciplines can be seen by simply updating the linked models. This makes the project process much more dynamic and intensive in the early stages of the project, but such an approach has the key advantage in providing all project participants with much better project solutions in the early stages of the project and results in a much more optimal project solution at the end of the project life cycle.
Data Storage And Availability From The Contractor’s Perspective
In considering the placement and availability of data from the contractor’s perspective, things seem simpler than is the case with the storage and availability of data during the project process. The traditional approach meant that the contractor took the graphic documentation from the designer and then created his brand new BIM model or a digital twin model tailored to his needs. From the point of view of the continuity of the project process, the moment when the contractor entered the project usually meant the interruption of the previously mentioned continuity of the project process. Practically, all data generated during the earlier project phases, from the conceptual solution to the tender phase of the project, lose their value and the contractor completely ignores the generated model and start to make his completely new BIM model for construction. The problem with this approach is that the investor, who paid the designer to create the BIM model of the tender project phase, now pays the contractor, who re-creates the BIM model for his needs. The investor can prevent this problem if the BEP defines the criteria of the BIM model tender project phase, which would be of sufficient quality and meet the needs of the contractor to the extent that the contractor will not make a completely new BIM model for his needs.
When we consider the contractor’s interest in using cloud technology, I think that such an approach is far more efficient for both the contractor and the investor, since we must keep in mind that the most common case is that we usually have contractors and many subcontractors in the construction. Thus, the conclusion is that during the construction of the building, ie. during the construction phase of the project, there are identical reasons as in the previous part of the article, which recommend cloud technology as the best solution for cooperation between different participants in the project process from the conceptual solution and all following phases of the project until construction, and then during maintenance, throughout its entire life cycle.
Data Storage And Availability From The Investor’s Perspective
On the storing and availability of data from the investor’s perspective, I don’t think I’m wrong to say the following – if I were an investor or his representative, I would insist that all project phases – from the conceptual design and all following phases of the project to construction and maintenance of the constructed building during its entire life cycle, they work in the cloud. Why?
So if you go back to the very beginning of the article and read the definition and possibilities of the cloud solution, it will be clear to you why I made such a claim. The cloud solution provides to the investor insight into the entire project documentation at any time of the entire project life cycle. During the various phases of the project before the construction of the building, the investor has an insight into the complete project process and can see all the problems that occur during the design. When we talk about construction, if the investor has regulated in a good way with BEP the transition from the tender phase of the project to the construction phase, there will be no need to create a completely new BIM model or digital twin model for the contractor. Finally, after the building is built, the facility manager can take over the BIM model or the digital twin model by the contractor at the end of the design phase of the completed building. This will again relieve the investor in financial and organizational terms and enable him to continue to supervise all phases of the project life cycle and the life cycle of the constructed building. Practically, complete documentation during any phase of the project process, then during the construction of the facility and finally during the maintenance of the full functionality of the facility using digital twin technology and cloud solutions make the investor sure to hold all the ends of the project life cycle.
Data Storage And Availability From The Facility Manager’s Perspective
When considering the storage and availability of data from the perspective of a facility manager, we must take into account that it appears at the very end of the project process and that its tasks are significantly different from other participants in the project process. In addition to the necessary repairs to maintain the full functionality of the building and care for the full comfort of building users, modern technologies allow the facility manager to document every change in the building in a digital twin model, but also to store all documentation related to certain activities during the maintenance of the facility. Also, modern technologies allow the facility manager to be more active in proposing different solutions to the user of the building using digital twin technology. The question arises – where to store all the documentation for the facility maintenance, the digital twin model and how to provide the user of the building with full insight into all the documentation related to the building maintenance?
It seems to me that the cloud solution again imposes itself as the best option, because it enables complete transparency of all data and documentation related to the facility maintenance.
How does the cloud solution help with data storage and availability?
I hope you have come to your own conclusions about how the cloud solution helps with data storage and availability by reading the previous chapters. I am going to present the most obvious advantages of creating a project in the cloud during the entire project life cycle, from the conceptual solution and all the following phases of the project all the way to construction, and then during the maintenance of the constructed building throughout its life cycle.
We can say that the cloud solutions application in the project process is the best available project environment because they are characterized by:
- cost-effectiveness, because they save resources to all participants in the project;
- transparency of all processes and always available documentation during all project phases;
- the possibility for the investor to have an insight into the project status at any time during the project life cycle;
- reliability of data generated in the cloud solution
- access to data, BIM models and digital twin models from the web or applications for tablets and smartphones;
- constant backups, and thus the reliability of the entire documenting process of all project activities;
- freedom to provide visibility of models and documentation to different participants in the project process…
How does the Autodesk Forge platform help with data storage and availability?
Unlike the cloud solution, which can be considered as an environment for collaboration during the project process, Autodesk Forge imposes itself as the best platform in case you need to make a web BIM model or a web version of the digital twin. The capabilities of the Autodesk Forge platform are limited solely by the imagination of the team making the digital twin model on the Autodesk Forge platform. Autodesk Forge allows a large number of users to access the digital twin model in a web format and does not require much knowledge of digital and BIM technologies.
The Autodesk Forge platform enables the integration of SaaS solutions (Fusion Team, A 360, BIM 360, etc.) into the user’s workflow and / or the incorporation of some of the components used in these Autodesk user solutions for web applications or smartphone and tablet applications.
Virtually all information from the BIM model and digital twin models can be transferred to a web model built on the Autodesk Forge platform, the digital twin model can be completely disassembled into components and all data related to each component in the model is available in such a representation of the digital twin model. A key advantage of the Autodesk Forge platform is data transparency for users who do not require extensive knowledge of digital and BIM skills. Simply put, a web model built on the Autodesk Forge platform enables Revit functionality in a web model without any knowledge of Revit.
Want to learn more about the Autodesk Forge platform and its capabilities? Select the following links:
I would like to conclude the article “Storing And Availability Of Digital Twin Model Data – Are The Forge And The Cloud The Best Solutions?” and about my opinion on which today-available solutions are the best for storing and availability of data in the digital twins technology. I would also like to take this opportunity to announce my next article “Analysis And Visualization Of Data In Digital Twin Technology – Cloud and Autodesk Forge”.
If you have any questions, comments or want to know more details about the topic I covered in the article “Storing And Availability Of Digital Twin Model Data – Are The Forge And The Cloud The Best Solutions?”, please contact TeamCAD, which will be pleased to provide you with additional information.
Also, if you need advice on how to best apply digital twin technology or you want to apply digital twin technology to your project or constructed facility, please contact TeamCAD, who will be happy to help you.
Until the next time,